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Landlords – The importance of keeping track of your obligations

Michael Gossage, Morecrofts

On 26th June 2018 the government issued new and updated ‘how to’ guides for landlords and tenants which are available here . These guides set out various issues that should be checked prior to entering into a tenancy agreement. They also outline the obligations of the parties, what can happen following expiry of the fixed term and what can be done if things go wrong.

While the guides have no legal standing in their own right, one of the many requirements of landlords is that they must serve a copy of the ‘how to rent’ guide on their assured shorthold tenant(s). A failure to do so will bar landlords from making a successful application to court for possession upon expiry of the fixed term under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

Many landlords and managing agents are aware of this requirement and will have served a copy of the guide on their tenant when the tenancy agreement was signed. If you are a landlord and you haven’t served a copy of the guide then you should do so straight away and seek advice

What may catch landlords out is a presumption that simply complying with their obligations at the outset of a tenancy is enough.

This is not the case. Landlords must continue to keep themselves fully appraised of all updates in legislation. I have seen numerous changes in my five years of acting for both landlords and tenants. Almost all of these have put further obligations on landlords.

For example, it is a requirement that copies of the new guides referred to above must be served on tenants who have been provided with the older versions. A failure to do so could result in a possession claim under Section 21 failing on the basis of this minor technicality. This will only result in delay and wasted cost given the landlord must then serve the new guide, serve a new two month notice and issue court proceedings for a second time.

Another area which is constantly evolving is landlord licensing. Selective licensing is continuing to be introduced by local authorities. Locally, Liverpool City Council introduced their licensing scheme back in 2016 and Sefton Council will be introducing their own scheme in September 2018. Again, any failure to have a licence in place (where required) will result in a possession claim under Section 21 failing.

Obligations on landlords are increasing and so are costs.

When I speak with my landlord clients I sense a growing feeling of frustration. Landlords’ margins are being squeezed and the process of evicting tenants even when your obligations are met can still be a difficult and time consuming process. I understand this completely.

However, courts have little sympathy for profit margins (or lack thereof) when the upshot of a successful court application is that a person is potentially being made homeless. There is a process to be followed and if landlords fail to comply with their obligations then they must unfortunately bear the consequences.

Given this, it is extremely important that landlords remain proactive in ensuring they comply with their obligations. If this is done and the unfortunate day comes where the assistance of the court is required then this will ensure that landlords are in the best possible position to make a successful application to court.

 

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